Riz Ahmed (‘Sound of Metal’) on playing Ruben, a heavy metal drummer losing his hearing [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Riz Ahmed challenged himself in a way he hadn’t before to prepare for his new Amazon film “Sound of Metal.” Playing Ruben, a heavy metal drummer who suddenly loses his hearing, the Emmy-winning actor learned American Sign Language and spent half a year learning the drums. “They were preparation not just for the skills but for the character,” says Ahmed in a new webchat with Gold Derby. “They’re both forms of non-verbal communication and with Ruben not being the most chatty kind of character, spending seven months non-verbally communicating opened me up as a performer in different ways.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.

Ahmed plays much of the film with subtlety and restraint, with Ruben lost in his mind as he is forced to deal with a new reality. The actor states that he did not compartmentalize exactly how he was going to approach his performance, instead collaborating with writer-director Darius Marder on letting it come to him naturally through the script. “It’s always going to be a bit of a struggle getting him to take off the armor because he is a character who’s so self-reliant and has had to survive and is a caretaker,” explains Ahmed. It is especially painful for Ruben because as Ahmed observes, drumming is a coping mechanism where he can be “his fullest self.”

“Sound of Metal” was a huge learning experience for Ahmed, especially for the physicality required. As he was communicating through ASL, he found himself becoming more emotional in the way he expressed himself. “I think that the most creatively fulfilling work is also often the scariest work where you feel like you’re in over your head, you’re overwhelmed and you’re out of your depth,” he admits. He is hoping to continue to be more open to the learning process in his future creative endeavors. “If you’re not fully in control, I think you’re forced to let go, and that’s when interesting things can happen.”

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